70 years ago today Obama’s grandfather and the Red Army liberated the most notorious of the death camps run by Nazi Germany. Here is the story of one survivor, Elie Wiesel:
At the beginning of Night, Wiesel introduces someone he met toward the end of 1941. His name was Moshe, and he became one of the boy’s teachers. They discussed religious topics, and one day they talked about prayer. Wiesel asked Moshe why he prayed, and his teacher replied that he prayed for strength to ask God the right questions. Later, the Hungarian police deported Moshe from Sighet, Wiesel’s hometown, because he was a foreigner. His destination was Poland and death at the hands of the Germans, but somehow Moshe escaped and found his way back to Sighet. The Jews of Sighet did not believe his tale of destruction.
Although the Holocaust was raging all around them, the Hungarian Jews were not decimated until 1944. Their lives began to change drastically, however, once the Germans occupied Hungary that March. In a matter of days, Sighet’s Jews had to deal with quarantines, expropriations of their property, and the yellow stars that targeted them. Then they were ghettoized and deported. Jammed into train cars, destination unknown, the Jews of Sighet—Elie Wiesel, his little sister, Tzipora, and their parents among them—eventually crossed the Polish frontier and arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Emerging from their train-car prisons into midnight air fouled by burning flesh, the Jews of Sighet were separated by the secret police: men to the left, women to the right. Wiesel lost sight of his mother and little sister, not fully aware that the parting was forever. Father and son stuck together. Spared the fate of Wiesel’s mother and sister, they were not “selected” for the gas chambers but for slave labor instead. From late May, 1944, until mid-January, 1945, Wiesel and his father endured Auschwitz’s brutal regimen. As the Red Army approached the camp, the two were evacuated to Germany. Severely weakened by the death march to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father perished there, but the son was liberated on April 11, 1945.
It is hard for most people to truly grasp the enormity of the evil that was the Holocaust. The Nazis built Auschwitz because simply shooting all the Jews was too expensive and inefficient. They set up the camp to efficiently process the prisoners. Jews were separated from their property, used as slave labor until they were too sick from illness and starvation to work, then executed. They used gas because it was cheaper than bullets and built ovens to cremate the corpses. Throughout the process they kept meticulous records, causing Hannah Arendt to coin the phrase, “the banality of evil.”
By the time Germany occupied Hungary in March of 1944 they were already in retreat from their disastrous invasion of Russia, they had been pushed out of North Africa and the Allies were advancing north in Italy. American and British bombers were bombing German cities on a nightly basis. It was clear they were losing the war.
And yet when they took control of Hungary they immediately set about rounding up all the Hungarian Jews and sending them to death camps.
If The Caliphate or Iran get the chance they will try to finish the job that Hitler started. Meanwhile there is a movement in our own country that would destroy Israel.